Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Identity Cards Bill - First Impressions

I've spent the evening reading through the ID Cards Bill and taking some notes, but haven't the energy to write them up or take it all in properly just yet.

Overall impressions of the Bill are that my fears are grounded in reality. The Bill makes many, many provisions for access to the Register's information by those in power, and there don't seem to be many (if any) specifications as to what level of access is acceptable and what's not. The closest it gets to making the government accountable is a mention of the Intelligence Service Commisioner (section 26) who will be responsible for reviewing how the intelligence services are using the Register, but in extremely scant detail. Given that the individual is not told when one of these services requests and gets their information, and that the NIS Commissioner's reports can be freely censored in the name of national security, I have no faith at all in just what my information is really being used for.

In addition to all this, there are also a hell of a lot of uses of the phrase "The Secretary of State may...", giving the whole thing a definite air of the open-ended, top-down legislation I've come to expect. There really is very little in the way of ensuring efficient data flow while encouraging me to trust the government.

Hopefully some time over the next few days I can produce something with the main points, and maybe a bit of analysis.

In the meantime, an important (and relatively straight-forward) bit of reading is Schedule 1 - Information that may be recorded in the Register. While it may allay some fears that things such as religion, marital status, et al would be tracked directly under a scheme, it also makes it clear that this is very much a ID-encapsulation scheme, providing facilities to link to any other piece of identifying documentation.

There also seems to be some extra means to gather information about that documentation, e.g. "the date of expiry or period of validity of a document" as recorded in Section 4.

Much of it is also to do with the history of your ID details - when things were changed, when details were checked, etc. Plus there's the curious "password" field, that I thought we were perhaps supposed to do away with once we had new-age bio-technology. Apparently not...

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